Based on David Benioff's novel, 25th Hour concerns the last free day of Monty Brogan, an Irish kid from Brooklyn who matures into a convicted felon. Before Monty goes up the river, he and his pals go out on the town. As adapted by Spike Lee -- a director who cannot help but turn a Nike ad into a mash note to New York City -- the movie nods to Martin Scorsese's ''Mean Streets,'' Woody Allen's ''Manhattan,'' and Lee's own ''Do the Right Thing,'' and the setup is less a premise than a pretense. The story of Edward Norton's Monty doesn't gain momentum; rather, it winds down, spinning out varied character studies, catchy slice-of-life vignettes, perfect urban vistas, and a meditation on Ground Zero along the way.
With his first feature film, ''She's Gotta Have It,'' Lee was tagged ''the black Woody Allen,'' and he's since developed into a cinematic Norman Mailer (emerging as both provocative and pugnacious). With its democratic raptures, hurtling monologues, and mongrel energy, ''25th Hour'' suggests that Lee could become a media-age Walt Whitman. He contains multitudes.